Oslo conference highlights inhumanity of nuclear weapons

March 12, 2013

By HIROYUKI MAEGAWA/ Correspondent

OSLO--Atomic bomb survivors and their supporters welcomed the first international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons, even though the two-day meeting made little tangible progress toward banning atomic arms.

"I think what we hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) have been advocating for more than 60 years has finally been understood to some extent," said Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations (Nihon Hidankyo).

Tanaka, 80, took part in the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons conference, held in Oslo on March 4-5, as a member of the Japanese delegation.

Masao Tomonaga, director of the Japanese Red Cross Nagasaki Genbaku Hospital, presented research results showing a higher cancer incidence among hibakusha.

"Nuclear weapons damage even genes, and the only prescription is eliminating nuclear weapons," Tomonaga said. "I think we have been able to deliver that message."

But the chairman's summary, released by Norway, did not touch on eliminating nuclear weapons as a goal, saying only that the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons will be further explored.

The cautious stance reflects the absence of five declared nuclear states--which together possess almost all of the world's nuclear weapons--from the conference.

Kazakh people who were exposed to radiation due to Soviet-era nuclear tests also discussed their experiences at the conference, and Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said it is impossible to provide effective and sufficient humanitarian assistance once a nuclear weapon is detonated.

The conference participants agreed that the use of a nuclear weapon would cause such a "humanitarian crisis" that the international community could never respond to it adequately.

A Swiss diplomat who attended the conference cautioned that it is premature to expect a convention outlawing all nuclear weapons anytime soon, and instead urged a gradual approach to the issue.

The diplomat suggested that a group of countries that led the Oslo conference should mobilize efforts to build up international public opinion against nuclear weapons.

By HIROYUKI MAEGAWA/ Correspondent
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Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, speaks at a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo on March 4. (Hiroyuki Maegawa)

Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, speaks at a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo on March 4. (Hiroyuki Maegawa)

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  • Terumi Tanaka, secretary-general of Nihon Hidankyo, speaks at a conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Oslo on March 4. (Hiroyuki Maegawa)

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